My oldest daughter just graduated from high school; she is very excited.
Twelve years ago when she started school, it was me that was excited.
I would volunteer, make new friends, enjoy casual lunches while planning unforgettable events and activities for the kids.
I would join the PTA – it would be amazing!
I very quickly realized there would be no casual lunches.
I was surprised to learn the needs of the students and teachers exceeded the available resources. Parents and community members were helping teachers with reading groups, providing snacks, fundraising for field trips, answering the phone so the school secretary could have a bathroom break, making copies, and putting together bulletin boards so teachers could go home for dinner.
The PTA would meet in the school cafeteria instead of the bistro I had in mind, and our planning always involved fundraising so that we would be able to afford basic classroom supplies, and hopefully events for the kids.
In the back of my mind I wondered – isn’t the school supposed to provide all this? Do they just not know how to manage their resources? Maybe, it is different at other schools.
When the military moved us, we started a new school. New school, new PTA – this school will have it together, and I will get my casual PTA lunches!
Again, school district resource shortfalls left classrooms and teachers in need. So, I went to work. Along with other parents, we turned to the community for the necessary resources for students to have a productive and meaningful school year.
Seven schools, seven school districts, each school with resource shortcomings and unique needs. Needs fulfilled by the PTA, PTO, or booster clubs reaching out to parent volunteers and the community for support.
What is PTA?
PTA stands for Parent Teacher Association. PTA is a national organization. Schools that choose to have a PTA collect dues from members then pay a portion to the state and national associations. The state PTA helps schools deal with things like annual insurance for events and financial audits.
What is PTO?
PTO stands for Parent Teacher Organization. A PTO is still an organized body but does not answer or pay dues to a larger organization. Many schools choose this option so they can maintain control over their decisions and finances. PTOs still have financial audits, and report to their members.
Booster Clubs are more specific fundraising groups generally for middle and high school sports or clubs. A booster club will form in order or raise money to support a sports team; to pay for travel to away games or purchase new uniforms; or even for a school sponsored international trip.
The parent volunteers of PTA, PTO and booster clubs, are dedicated to supporting students. The unique needs of each school, determine what that support looks like. Sometimes support is new classroom furniture, smart boards, and computers. It could also be a field trip or guest speakers. Some groups offer scholarships for students who cannot afford activity fees for sports and clubs. The teachers and staff need support too, copy paper near the end of the year, or snacks for long nights during parent-teacher conferences.
Fundraising is a drag.
When a school holds a fundraiser, everyone needs to jump on board. Parent groups try their best to make fundraising, “FUN!” Fundraising events only work when parents pitch in and help. They are time-consuming and burdensome when it is left to only two or three people. Having the work spread among many makes it manageable.
Parents, keep an eye out for how you can lend a hand, even a little bit helps. Community members, please give generously of your time and skills to help support our teachers and students. You don’t have to have a student in school to volunteer!
Call your local school for information on joining the PTA or PTO.
- Alpenglow 907-742-3300
- Birchwood ABC 907-742-3450
- Chugiak 907-742-3400
- Eagle Academy 907-742-3025
- Eagle River 907-742-3000
- Firelake 907-742-3350
- Homestead 907-742-3550
- Ravenwood 907-742-3250